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Custom Cross-Stitch Patterns 

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Custom Cross-Stitch Patterns 

Written By: Charles Piatt 


Computer (1) 

Image processing software (1) 

such as Adobe Photoshop which is what I've used here. 


Almost all printed photographs are made of dots. Look closely in magazines, on inkjet 
pages, or even on billboards, and you can see the dots — but as you move farther away, 
your eyes perceive the image created by the dots. 

Here's a project that applies this optical phenomenon to the ancient art of cross-stitching. 
Close up you'll see the stitches, but at arm's length the stitches will seem to merge to form a 
photographic image. All you need to make this happen are a little patience, traditional cross- 
stitching supplies, a digital camera, and an image editing program such as Photoshop. 

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Custom Cross-Stitch Patterns 

Step 1 — Choose a picture. 

• For best results, it should not 
contain a lot of fine detail, and it's 
helpful to select an image with a 
single-color background if possible. 
Portraits are ideal. I chose a 
picture of a pigeon. 

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Custom Cross-Stitch Patterns 

Step 2 — Paint out the background and choose your image size. 

• You have to isolate your subject 
visually from the background if it's 
not already. Open your picture in 
Photoshop. I used the Eyedropper 
tool to sample a light gray in the 
pigeon's wing, then applied that 
color to the background with the 
Paintbrush tool. Don't worry about 
painting around very thin lines, 
which will disappear anyway. 

• For a starter project I suggest a 
stitched area about 5" wide on 16- 
thread-count fabric. This means 
you'll be sewing 80 stitches per 
line. Since 1 stitch will represent 
each pixel, you need to convert 
your image to 80 pixels per line. 

• In Photoshop, choose Image => 
Image Size from the menu bar. In 
the dialog that opens, make sure 
the Resample Image option is 
checked near the bottom. Enter 80 
pixels for the image width. Ignore 
the height and other data fields; 
click OK. Your image will shrink to 
almost nothing, so choose View => 
Fit on Screen from the menu bar 
to see the pixels. 

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Custom Cross-Stitch Patterns 

Step 3 — Preview the effect and choose a palette. 

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• Move a few feet away from your 
video monitor. If the image doesn't 
adapt well, try a different 

• Your computer displays images in 
millions of colors, but for cross- 
stitching we want to use only a few 
colors of floss. From the menu bar, 
choose Image => Mode => 
Indexed Color. In the dialog box 
that opens, for the Palette option 
choose Local (Adaptive); for the 
Forced option choose None; for the 
Dither option choose None; and for 
the Colors option try entering 
various numbers from 4 upward. 

• You should be able to preview the 
results while the dialog box is 
open. Eight colors were sufficient 
for the pigeon. Click OK when 
you're happy with the result. 

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Custom Cross-Stitch Patterns 

Step 4 — Add saturation. 


• When you reduced the number of 
colors, each one became a 
compromise. This is like mixing 
many colors in a paint box: they 
tend to get muddy. From the menu 
bar, choose Image => Adjust => 
Hue/Saturation and play with the 
sliders to make your picture more 

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Custom Cross-Stitch Patterns 

Step 5 — Create swatches, convert back to RGB, print your image and add 
a grid. 

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Custom Cross-Stitch Patterns 

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• You'll be able to keep track of your 
colors more easily if you make a 
row of swatches in a blank area of 
your image. Using the Eyedropper 
tool, click in an area of your photo, 
then use the Marquee tool to create 
a small square. From the menu 
bar, choose Edit => Fill and click 
the Foreground Color option. 
Repeat this procedure for all the 
colors in your photo. 

• Convert your image from Indexed 
Color back to RGB color by 
selecting Image => Mode => RGB 
Color. This will make subsequent 
steps easier. 

• We want your printed version to be 
the same size as your cross- 
stitched version, but your printer 
may be unpredictable if you try to 
print only 16 pixels per inch. We'll 
keep it happy by "upsampling" the 

• Again choose Image => Image 
Size from the menu bar. In the 
dialog box that opens, for the 
Resolution option, enter 160 if 
you're going to use 16-count fabric, 
or enter 140 if you're going to use 
14-count fabric, and so on. Don't 
click OK yet! 

• Now change the width from 80 to 
800 pixels, and near the bottom of 
the dialog box where it shows you 
options to Resample Image, 

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Custom Cross-Stitch Patterns 

choose the Nearest Neighbor 
option (otherwise, your nice sharp 
pixels will get blurred). Now click 
OK, and you should be able to print 
your image full-size without 
• You'll need a grid (like graph paper) 
to help you count stitches. The 
easiest way is to print your image 
and draw a grid by hand, in colored 
pen. Some people find it easiest to 
use 1 grid square per pixel. I like 
using 1 grid line per 5 pixels to 
reduce the workload. 

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Custom Cross-Stitch Patterns 

Step 6 — Print color separations and find your floss. 

1 To avoid confusion, you can make 
a separate print of each color 
(Figure E). First, in the Toolbox, 
change your background color to 
white (consult Photoshop Help if 
you aren't sure how to do this). 
Save your work. Now select the 
Magic Wand tool, set its tolerance 
to 0, uncheck its Anti-Aliased 
option, and uncheck its Contiguous 

1 Use it as follows: 

• Save your art under a new 

• Using the Magic Wand tool, click 
the first of your swatches. This 
should select all the instances of 
the color that you clicked. 

• Choose Select => Inverse from 
the menu bar. 

• Choose Edit => Cut from the 
menu bar to remove all the 
pixels except the ones you 

• Print the page. 

• Choose Edit => Undo Cut 
Pixels from the menu bar to 
restore everything. 

This project first appeared in CRAFT Volume 07 , pages 99-102. 
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This document was last generated on 2012-11-03 12 

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